Thursday, March 27, 2008

Facing charges of terrorism

Farooq Tariq
Labour Party Pakistan

Today on 25 March, by the time, Yousaf Raza Gilani was taking oath as prime minister of Pakistan from General Musharaf; I was appearing in an Anti Terrorist Court in Lahore alongside with 11 more comrades. Ourtrial began on 7 March 2008 and during the last 15 days; we have appeared in the court five times.

Our advocate was brilliant today. She is Rabia Bajwa, one of the main activists of advocate movement. While cross-examining the police witnesses against us, she confronted several times the lies of the police officers. She exposed them in very clear terms.

For example, she asked one police officer what time he wrote the first police report. He replied, at 11am, while another police officer had told the court earlier that he had arrested us at 11am. When she asked another police officer if he knows the names of all those arrested on 27th September, his reply was in negative, while another said that he only knows two of us.

She asked if the advocate demonstration was going at the same time, to which they said yes. Then she asked why they had not arrested the advocates and why Labour Party activists were arrested. They had no answer. She asked one of them if we were raising slogans at the time of the demonstration; he said yes, we were raising slogans before the police stopped us. He had earlier stated in his recorded statement that we started raising slogans only after the police stopped us.

12 of us were arrested on 27 September 2007 after our participation in an advocate demonstration. Police booked us under terrorist charges. The maximum sentence is death. They lied that we had attacked the police and injured some of them while tearing apart their police uniforms and that we were armed with sticks.

Asma Jahangir and Rabia Bajwa along with 10 more advocates appeared on our behalf in the Anti Terrorist Court after our arrest and got us released on bail after a few days. The Anti Terrorist Court has now begun the hearing of the case. I am sure that we will be cleared of chargesin the next hearing on 27 March.

However, the point is that only political activists have to appear in the courts for the crimes of being part of the lawyers movement. The new government has to take up this important issue and we have demanded that all these cases registered during the advocate movement should be withdrawn unconditionally. The police officers who have acted illegally should face charges and not us.

I personally know Yousaf Raza Gilani, the new prime minister of Pakistan very well. We both have studied in the same university atthe same time in the seventies. He was a student of Journalism and I studied Applied Psychology. We lived in the same student hostel and I was elected as Hall secretary of Hostel 19 of University of Punjab, Lahore. However, I will not ask any personal favor of withdrawing cases against me and other friends. Our demand is to withdraw allp olitical cases against the activists during the last one year.

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